ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Israeli company to start collecting lithium-ion batteries for recycling

Electronics Recycling Corporation rolling out containers in Jerusalem, Rishon Lezion for batteries from bikes and scooters — but not cars — which will be recycled in Europe

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Special receptacles for old or damaged lithium-ion batteries to be distributed around Israel. (Courtesy, Israel Electronics Recycling Corporation)
Special receptacles for old or damaged lithium-ion batteries to be distributed around Israel. (Courtesy, Israel Electronics Recycling Corporation)

The Israel Electronics Recycling Corporation has started rolling out recycling receptacles for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in electric bicycles and scooters, but not cars.

The company, known in Hebrew by its acronym M.A.I., began distributing containers last week in Jerusalem and Rishon Lezion.

The move comes nearly two years after a law on recycling electronic waste and batteries was expanded to include the lithium-ion batteries used in electric scooters and bikes.

The batteries will be sent to a sorting facility in the northern West Bank settlement of Shilo, which is authorized to prepare, pack and send them in special containers to recycling plants in Europe.

Aside from lithium, the batteries contain other metals such as cobalt, aluminum, nickel and copper, which are not only costly and environmentally toxic to mine, but whose extraction has been linked to human rights abuses.

Lithium-ion batteries can be almost totally recycled. Reusing the component metals saves on additional mining and can bring battery costs down. By contrast, dumping batteries in landfills can cause fires, and see toxic materials leaking out and contaminating soil and groundwater.

Furthermore, old and damaged batteries can be dangerous. Over the past year, according to M.A.I., six people in Israel were killed and hundreds injured in battery-related fires.

In August, a house fire in Tel Aviv’s Tikvah neighborhood was blamed on a bike battery. Video from the scene showed an electric bike on fire on a sidewalk near the home.

While the law was expanded to place the responsibility for recycling on importers and local manufacturers of electric bikes, scooters and their batteries, no regulations for the recycling and disposal of lithium-ion batteries were ever formulated, according to M.A.I. CEO, Amnon Sharoor.

This, he added, had forced the corporation to develop its own strategy and rules. M.A.I. was founded in 2014 and recognized by the Environmental Protection Ministry as an implementation arm of the electric/electronic recycling law.

Sharoor also bemoaned the law’s exclusion of electric vehicle batteries, saying Israel was lagging far behind the rest of the developed world.

Amnon Sharoor, CEO of the Israel Electronics Recycling Corporation, known in Hebrew by its acronym, M.A.I. (Courtesy, Israel Electronics Recycling Corporation)

On Thursday, the European Commission was set to publish its Critical Raw Materials Act, which will set targets for recycling a wide range of batteries, including those used in industry, in electric cars, and in cars with combustion engines.

Last year, then-Meretz lawmaker Mossi Raz tried unsuccessfully to advance a bill for the recycling of EV car batteries.

“More than 30 percent of vehicles coming in now are electric ones, with every battery weighing half a ton, and nobody knows what to do with them,” Sharoor said.

Thousands of Palestinians eke out a living by stripping and burning electronic waste from Israel to extract and sell the metals within, including recyclables like solar panels. The lucrative industry has been blamed for high cancer rates and environmental damage.

Despite the absence of any regulation, Colmobil, a vehicle import arm of ICL, and EMS Metals, a waste recycler, announced plans in June for a factory that will recycle lithium-ion batteries from electric cars.

Palestinians burn trash near the security barrier in towns west of Hebron. (Tamir Khalifa)

For this, regulations will have to be formulated, Sharoor said.

In the meantime, in the absence of any official rules, M.A.I. has developed several guidelines based on international practice for collecting batteries.

Sharoor warned the public to use lithium-ion batteries only for the purpose for which they were designed, and never to have a battery refurbished by anyone other than an authorized dealer.

All such batteries should be sent for recycling when they reach three years, whether or not they still work, he stressed.

It was important to keep old and damaged batteries dry, preferably sealed in a plastic bag, and to cover the battery terminals (or connections) with stickers or tape. Care should be taken not to drop or do anything to crack them because that could cause them to ignite.

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